According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were more than 350,000 “insurance sales agents” employed by insurance agencies, brokerages, carriers, and related firms in the United States as of May 2014, the most recent date through which information is available. Employment growth for insurance agents is forecast at nine to 10 percent annually through 2024, which will add more than 43,500 jobs across all business types.
U.S. News & World Report says roughly one fourth of agents work for an insurance company and sell its products exclusively, while half work for an independent insurance agency or brokerage and sell products from a variety of companies. Nearly 20 percent of agents are self-employed. The California Department of Insurance issued 60,762 new producer licenses to sell insurance in 2014, with many going to individuals switching careers, leaving the military, or fresh out of school with no insurance background. (Nevada processed 29,202 insurance licenses in the 12-month period ending in June 2015.)
Working as an insurance broker offers a better-than-average median salary according to the BLS as well as the opportunity to set your own hours. Brokers in the top 25 percentile earn 53 percent more than the median annual wage, while those in the top 10 percentile earn 150 percent of the median. (That was $119,000 or more in 2014.)
While a college degree is not generally required by insurance companies and agencies, it’s not uncommon for a broker to have attended or graduated from college. What’s really important, though, are strong sales skills, an aggressive and positive attitude, and strong interpersonal and verbal communications skills, according to Robert Rusbuldt, president and CEO of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, an insurance trade group. Customer service skills are also important – to help attract new clients and maintain existing accounts – as are analytical skills to better understand how certain products address clients’ diverse needs.
All insurance agents in the U.S. need to be licensed, but requirements vary from state to state. The products you sell will influence your licensing, too. If you sell life and property insurance, you’ll be subject to different regulations and requirements than those selling health insurance
Picking a Partner
Selling, in the insurance field in particular, isn’t for everyone. There tends to be a lot turnover according to U.S. News. But choosing the right general agency and/or carrier partner can be a major influencer in whether a new agent succeeds. GAs and carriers often offer benefits and services that brokers would be hard-pressed to duplicate on their own. These may include enrollment assistance (including online enrollment technology and bilingual presentation support), advertising and promotion/co-op marketing, Continuing Education courses (required to maintain an insurance license), and other online tools and resources to help you stay up to date on industry trends and changes.
Be sure you evaluate your options carefully before making your GA or carrier partner selection.
Word & Brown is a general agency partner committed to broker success. For more information, call 1-800-869-6989 or visit saythewordbroker.com.